Indian Army insists on physical verification of the disengagement process

Amidst trust deficit, forces of India and China have kick-started the disengagement process. Five days after military commanders of both the countries broadly agreed to restart the gradual and verifiable troops disengagement from friction points, an Indian Army patrol has been moved forward to do the physical verification on ground to ensure the Chinese claims. 

At Lt Commander-level meeting on June 30, China had agreed to pullback its forces from Galwan and Gogra-Hot Springs areas as part of step-by-step disengagement process. But the Indian side added the clause of physical verification because of the trust deficit with the Chinese military.

"Indian Army will do the physical verification on whether the Chinese have actually removed their vehicles and structures from these two points or not," said a source in the military establishment. 

However, the Indian Army will have to do the physical verification with utmost caution because the June 15 clash in Galwan Valley occurred during a similar exercise. Twenty Indian soldiers, including a colonel, were killed and several others injured in the brawl.

As the disengagement process has started from both sides, a three-day time gap has been fixed by the Indian side to re-check the Chinese claims before moving to next step, according to a source.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surprise visit to Leh on Friday, Indian establishment is learnt to have hardened its stance on the disengagement plan. According to top government sources, India is insisting on China to move back from its existing positions before initiating any step-by-step withdrawal. 

"It is the Chinese People's Liberation Army which had moved forward by strengthening its deployment on the flash points and setting up permanent bunkers, pillboxes and observation posts. In retaliation, Indian side did the force mobilisation. So, the Chinese have to move back first, if they want peace in the region," said an official, adding, "We don't want to appease China, which has cheated us many times". 

So, in order to meet any eventuality, India has beefed up it defences on the border with China by deploying additional frontline fighter jets and attack helicopters of the Indian Air Force on its airbase in Leh. 

Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG-29 fighter jets regularly carry out combat air patrol in the areas close to the border along with Apache attack helicopters, which India has recently purchased from the United States. Activities on Leh military base have increased in the last two days with increased number of sorties by fighter jets and attack helicopters.

Without naming China, Modi on Friday said the "time for expansionism is over and this is the era of development". He recalled that it was the mindset of expansionism that did great harm. He also added that India is committed to peace and friendship but this commitment should not be seen as India’s "weakness".

Indian military is also ensuring that before moving forward to any negotiations, China should not only pull back its forces from forward locations but also move back its supporting units including artillery and armoured units.

Military establishment is prepared for a long haul, as they believe the process of withdrawal by the Chinese might take a couple of months. 

"It seems that situation on the border will continue for long, at least for two- three months. The winter will be very difficult in the region if situation does not get normalise," a defence expert said.